We were watching The Fellowship of the Ring last night and I noticed something interesting. When Bilbo is preparing to leave, Gandalf asks him if he intends to leave the ring to Frodo. Bilbo replies with an affirmative and informs the wizard that the ring is on the mantle. Then he has a moment of confusion and realizes, “No. It’s here in my pocket.”
What a good metaphor for sin.
Sin can be very difficult to keep track of. One of the reasons for this is that all wrong doing is sin, but not all sin is innately wrong doing. Sometimes wonderful things, when used out of context and against divine intention, can become sin.
A good example of this is sex. God designed sex to be between a man and his wife. Used within this context, sex is a wonderful gift. When it is taken outside of the boundaries of marriage, however, it can do untold damage and becomes sinful. Money is another example. I often hear the quote ‘Money is the root of all evil,’ but what 1Tim.6:10 actually says is ‘The love of money is the root of all evil.’ Money can be a gift if used properly and not turned into an idol.
Because so many good things can be warped into sinful things, it can be easy to fall into the trap of self-justification and excuse our behavior. It’s also incredibly easy to slip into addiction and sinful habits. I’m so prone to the ‘I can stop whenever I want’ mindset that I don’t even realize habitual sin until it’s too late and it has a grip on me.
Something else to notice is that the ring sat quietly in Bilbo’s pocket for sixty years. Sometimes sin will do that too. Just because sin isn’t causing major damage at the moment, doesn’t mean it’s harmless. There is no such thing as harmless sin. Sometimes, satan is perfectly content to let us be, well, perfectly content. Sometimes sin gets taken for granted and left alone for so long that the real damage is going unnoticed.
We can grow complacent and lukewarm, lazily fingering the sin in our pocket. Meanwhile, we aren’t growing closer to the Lord, we aren’t winning disciples, and we aren’t advancing the Kingdom. And that sin is becoming a stronghold that will eventually cause damage to ourselves and those around us.
Can you imagine what would have happened if Bilbo walked out onto the road with the ring in his pocket? The ring could have fallen into the wrong hands, or it could have corrupted Bilbo as much as it did Gollum. Or it could have sat quietly for several more years, still biding its time. But it’s unlikely that it would have been destroyed. Then all of Middle Earth would have paid the price for Bilbo’s secret sin.
If you are a born again Christian, then the Holy Spirit lives within you and you have everything you need to combat sin. But we all need to be on our guard against the ‘little, not so bad’ sins that we think we can handle. All sin is dangerous, so make sure to check your pockets regularly.
(Originally published 9/12/13)